Reel Affirmations 2007
Comme des voleurs [a l’est]
Review by Will O’Bryan
Rating: (4 out of 5)
Wednesday, 10/17/2007, 7:00 PM
Feature presentation, $10 at Lincoln Theatre
French and Polish with English subtitles
SOMETIMES A STORY translates. Sometimes it doesn’t. With Stealth, it’s a little of both.
Lionel Baier, who gave us 2004’s Garçon Stupide, this time writes, directs and stars in Stealth, which apparently is some sort of surreal auto-biopic. Baier plays ”Lionel Baier,” a Swiss gay man living in Lausanne with his boyfriend. He should be happy, but information that leads him to believe his roots are Polish rather than Swiss sparks a sort of identity crisis.
The notion of Lionel, coming from affluent Switzerland and longing for all things from poor Poland, is apparently supposed to be a wacky juxtaposition of economic realities. After all, Stealth is billed as a comedy. Americans, as a land of immigrant mutts, might have a hard time relating to Lionel as he frantically demands his boyfriend scrutinize his face for traces of Slavic genes. Some of the comic relief will also seem a bit suspect to Americans. Is the anti-welcome to Poland — the sun rising over Auschwitz — supposed to be funny?
Lionel’s sister Lucie, played charmingly by Natacha Koutchoumov, is a welcome counter to Lionel’s recklessness. We share her frustration with Lionel’s Polish quest as she peppers him with, ”Roots? National identity? It’s fascist.” Were it not for the Lucie character, we would not be able to continue watching Lionel. It’s a relief when, in her frustration, she steals him away from a lakeside picnic and heads straight for Poland in an attempt to put an end to Lionel’s madness. As this not-too-funny comedy wends its way across Europe, the story becomes, almost despite itself, somehow worthwhile. When it seems Lionel will finally be smacked back into reality by his sister, Lionel’s quest actually begins to seem rational. He makes a compelling argument for the need to know where he comes from, to fill in the blanks. It doesn’t justify the shitty treatment he gives his boyfriend, but it buys him some measure of cover.
Audiences won’t be disappointed by Baier’s direction, his ensemble’s acting or the story’s pacing and resolution. Baier is an able filmmaker, and his finished product is polished and professional — if perhaps a little puzzling to American sensibilities. But be warned that this is no laff-riot. It’s an intellectual road-trip movie, and it might even speak to you. Though something of Baier’s message about identity may be universal, Stealth‘s trappings are not. — WOB